Rashi wonders why this provision is reported as ordained B’har Sinai – “on Mount Sinai” (Lev. 25:1). He answers that just as this law with all its ramifications was given on Mount Sinai, so is it with all the commandments of the Torah. Everything comes from Sinai, not just the headlines but the details.
There is an additional possibility to be considered when it comes to explaining the sabbatical year. Just as the Ten Commandments given at Sinai deal with human life, so does this law. It is not just designed to benefit the land, though that aspect must never be minimised. It is also a principle designed to work within the human community.
As a year of rest is good for the land, enabling it to regain its pristine power, a year off is also a valuable idea for the human being. Shabbat each week does wonders for the heart and mind, but a full year away from the pace and pressure of daily life is an extra gift from God.
Most people don’t get their chance to recharge their life’s force until they retire, but some are by then rather too old and maybe even too unwell to derive full benefit from the years ahead. Whilst they are still in the workforce it would be a real boon to have a year of travel, study, thinking, finding new cultural and spiritual horizons.
Many will say they can’t afford it. Where will they live, how will they manage, where will they find the financial resources? Important questions, but with planning and forethought the problem is capable of solution. The alternative is to wear out or burn out, and merely limp along until retirement.
A personal sabbatical year would help us all personally and improve our productivity.